Video / Buying Guide

8 Recommended Camcorders and Cameras for Vlogging

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Choosing a camcorder for vlogging (video blogging)? I get it—it’s confusing. There are so many, brands, prices, features, and choices, all of which seem to be calling your name when the inevitable GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) kicks in. I wrote about a similar topic, briefly, in my “Video Solutions for Vloggers” article, which also discusses other essential tools for vlogging. However, in this instance, I want to delve a little deeper into the world of camcorders.

"Since so many people are involved in the “vlogosphere,” having good production values can help set your videos apart, helping you attract an audience."

It goes without saying that a camcorder is essential to any vlogger’s kit. After all, the camcorder is what enables you to capture content—e.g. your beautiful visage—for presentation on the World Wide Web. However, not all camcorders are created equal. Since each person has different requirements, skill-sets, and ultimate expectations, to say one camcorder is objectively better than all others regardless of situation would be missing the point (although if that were possible, this article would be shorter). So, I will try to address a spectrum of users, beginning with those who are just starting out, and moving on to more experienced vloggers and special-use cases.

For the Beginner

Vlogging (a funny sounding word combining “video” and “blogging,” and not to be confused with the homonym “flogging”), is all the rage these days. And while you could save some money and passably sustain a decent vlog using the camera built into your smartphone, at a certain point stepping up to a dedicated camcorder can really boost the quality of the videos for your vlog. Since so many people are involved in the “vlogosphere,” having good production values can help set your videos apart, helping you attract an audience. So, with which camera do you start out?

The “Jack-of-All-Trades” Option

Panasonic’s HC-V770K Full HD Camcorder is an excellent place to start, for just about anyone. It’s affordable, and it offers high-quality 1080p video at up to 60 frames per second (fps) and even a slow-mo 120 fps mode. A 20x zoom lens gives you many framing and perspective options when composing your shots. This camera is a great starter because it offers solid video quality and ease of use with its automatic exposure modes. When you are ready to introduce a greater degree of exposure and aesthetic control into your content, an easily accessible dedicated manual exposure wheel is located at the front of the camera. A microphone input is also available for when you decide to take the step up into dedicated audio equipment. Accessories such as lavalier and shotgun microphones offer much improved audio quality over the camera’s built-in microphone. When you’re finished recording, videos are stored in the MP4 format to ubiquitous SD cards. This way they will work with PC and Mac in most editing applications. In the interest of quick uploading, untouched MP4 files will work with most video hosting services, such as YouTube and Vimeo, right out of the camera.

For the Adventurer

As far as action cameras are concerned, GoPro has already become a household name by producing tiny cameras that capture good-quality video with the potential to be mounted on almost anything, anywhere, for capturing your intense sporting adventures. What makes the HERO4 Silver model an attractive choice for the budding adventure vlogger is that it strikes the balance between price, quality, and accessory availability. GoPro cameras are well known for their versatility. Accessory options bolster the GoPros’ versatility, making them waterproof or allowing you to place them in hard-to-reach locations while you control and monitor them remotely. As an aside, the familiar form factor also allows the accessories you buy for them to be compatible with both standard and higher-end models from GoPro, should you choose to upgrade your setup in the future, or add another camera to your arsenal.

For The Musician

When recording musical performances or quick ideas, pristine audio is of the utmost importance. While the camera does record HD video, it’s the audio-recording features that are the main focus of this camera. The Zoom Q8 Handy Video Recorder captures audio by way of two condenser microphones that dominate the top of the camcorder. They are arranged in an “X/Y” pattern for stereo recording without phase cancellation. If your vlog revolves around music creation or promotion, this camera will faithfully reproduce the audio-visual experience of concerts, jams, sessions, or just about any other musical scenario in which you may find yourself.

For the Filmmaker

If you want your vlog to be centered around filmmaking, check out the Canon EOS Rebel T5i. Since the T5i is part of the EOS family of cameras, you can buy (or rent) compatible EOS-system lenses. Having extra lenses gives you options affecting composition and fine aesthetic control over your images not offered in regular camcorders. Using the photography modes can also serve to help you learn proper exposure technique, essential for any aspiring filmmaker. Another advantage to buying into the EOS system is that you can upgrade your camera and retain lens compatibility all the way up to Canon’s professional Cinema EOS line.

For the Experienced Videographer

A little experience can go a long way. So you’ve already cut your teeth on entry-level gear, and you want to upgrade. That’s understandable, considering that understanding video recording more in-depth will allow you to take advantage of the more advanced functionality inherent in higher-end gear. Gear purchased at this level should still prove useful, even at professional levels. So with that in mind, let’s move on up to some more expensive stuff.

Run and Gun

Run-and-gun vloggers should take a look at the recently announced Canon Vixia HF G40 camcorder. It’s lightweight, records full-HD files at up to 60 fps, and has precise manual control by way of a lens ring and a large zoom rocker. Other features on the HF G40 that usually found in higher-end video cameras include exposure zebra patterns, a color-bar generator, an extendable EVF with an eyecup, and manual focus assist with colored peaking. Dual card slots can be used for "relay" recording or for redundancy. Relay recording is great if you want to shoot an entire event. The camera will automatically switch to the second card when the first one fills up, without dropping frames, so you will have a continuous video over multiple cards. Redundant or dual recording records the same footage to both cards. This is important for mission-critical work, because if one of your cards fails, you will have an immediate backup. Audio-wise, the camera features a standard 3.5mm mic-in and a Canon-proprietary hot shoe for compatible microphones. If you are using a wireless unit, a cold shoe on the top of the camera provides a solid platform to hold the receiver within easy reach, without impeding control access.

Beyond HD

Now, if you want to move up into the world of “beyond HD” there are some solid options you can consider, even at this price point. Sony’s FDR-AX100 camcorder proudly wears its “4K” badge of honor, offering UHD (3840 x 2160) video recording at bit rates of up to 100Mbps. Currently, a majority of people don’t have screens that can fully appreciate 4K resolution—the high-resolution files will play back at a higher bit rate over the Web, so there will be a noticeable difference in quality on streaming services like YouTube. The 1"-type sensor on this camera is larger than the ones found in most camcorders, and offers a slightly different aesthetic. You won’t be able to achieve the same blown-out backgrounds the way you can on a large-sensor DSLR or mirrorless camera, but the effect is noticeable enough to make a difference if you compose your image properly. However, having a deeper depth of field will help in keeping your 4K images sharp, as focusing errors are more noticeable at such high resolutions. Some notable features included on this camcorder are a nice large lens ring, which can adjust focus or zoom, and Sony’s electronic Multi Interface Accessory Shoe (MIS). This hot shoe is compatible with several useful audio accessories, including Sony's UWP-D wireless system when paired with the SMAD-P3 adapter.

If that’s not enough, Sony also offers the PXW-X70 camcorder which, with a paid firmware upgrade, will also shoot 4K video. The PXW-X70 is like the FDR-AX100 on steroids. It adds a detachable top handle with XLR inputs for pro-grade audio equipment, a larger handgrip, an adjustable ND filter, dual card slots (like the HF G40 above), and a 3G-SDI output for connecting to switchers, recorders, or other pro-video equipment. As an added bonus, if you also plan on making videos for broadcast, the PXW-X70 can also record 10-bit 4:2:2 1080p video, a format deemed "broadcast quality" by most (if not all) television studios.

Outstanding Quality and Artistic Control

If you really want to have the finest possible control over your videos, I highly recommend the Panasonic Lumix GH4. Many successful vloggers have stepped up to this camera when looking for outstanding video quality and artistic control. The Micro Four Thirds (MFT) lens mount grants a wide selection of lenses from native Micro Four Thirds glass to adapted vintage equipment from the burgeoning secondhand market. The camera settings offer you granular customization of settings to get your image exactly the way you want it (not for the faint of heart or the inexperienced). The large Four Thirds-sized sensor and fast lens options provide a platform for greater control over depth of field in your compositions. Since it doesn’t offer the same audio input options or the internal ND filters as the PXW-X70 camcorder, I would recommend this camera for shooting “studio style” with extensive preparation and double-system sound, using a separate recorder for audio.

If you have the funds, getting the PXW-X70 and the GH4 will give you a setup to tackle nearly any kind of vlog you want to make, whether it’s documentary style on the streets or in the studio. Owning one camera is usually sufficient for most blogs, but aspiring to own more than one isn’t too bad, either!

To Change or not to Change?

This list of suggestions is by no means exhaustive. There are vloggers out there who use drastically different equipment than the stuff I suggested here. If you and your audience feel comfortable with the end results that you achieve with your current setup, you shouldn’t have to change it just because you saw something here. But, if you are looking for something new, perhaps to inspire a different way of shooting, none of the above cameras should steer you wrong. As a matter of fact, if you have any alternatives to the suggestions here, feel free to leave a comment below to share your personal experiences and/or gear suggestions.

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Need suggestions. I'm ok with DSLRs but new to higher level camcorders and I just don't have enough experience with the range of models to even know what is out there. I'll be specific on wanted features here because those are the only things I really know haha.

The setting is a church hall with horrible low lighting. The video system is in place but the old camera we were using is dying so it's upgrade time. Budget is around the $1600US mark. Wanting a fixed lens camera. Brand is not important. Need a little over 10x zoom minimum. Manual controls but buttons are fine so long as I have at least a focus ring. PAL system. SD card. Audio is a 3.5mm feed from a mixer nearby (we won't use XLR on the camera). And importantly and non-negotiable we need a clean HDMI feed which we send to a standard def TV in another room.

I was trying for 4K but not sure if that'll work now.

We almost bought the Sony FDR-AX100E and it was going to be tight on the budget. I loved the idea. A nice 1” sensor, good low light quality, 4k. But I happened to see a video about the HDMI output that killed that plan. When recording in 4K it turns off the HDMI if it's connected to a non-4K device. Our internal video system is 1080. Unfortunately that's also the case with all the models based on that design (Sony AX33, AX55, X70). I can understand why they have the issue, but I still need a camera. And we need that HDMI feed.

So now I'm just starting to look at Panasonics and Canons and am hoping they don't have the same issue. That search led me here as I'm pretty much just following Google results. I have no knowledgeable human source here to ask.

The 4K option would be nice, but if that can't be done with the HDMI feed then I'd rather drop 4K entirely and get the best 1080 camera I can for the available money. That might still be the AX100E or it might be another brand with great looking 1080 in low light. You tell me. Please :)

If you (anyone) can spare the time I'd greatly appreciate a list of models that you think fit this description. As I said, I just don't know what models are out there to even consider them at this point.

I am looking for a camera to do video podcast what could i get in hd for a $200 budget?

Hi Tony -

The Zoom Q4 Handy Video Recorder combines Full HD 1080p video with Zoom's high-quality audio capture technology. Designed with musicians in mind, the Q4 features a pop-up 120° X/Y condenser microphone that lets you capture live studio performances, concerts, or videos of yourself playing with studio-quality sound. The Q4 also features a detachable flip-out 2.0" LCD screen unit, a lens with a wide 130° viewing angle, and outboard audio controls for quick access to settings such as gain, monitor volume, and low cut filter.

The Q4 captures HD video at 1080p/30, 720p/60, or 720p/30 to SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards up to 128GB in size. It can also record WVGA video at 60 or 30 fps. A micro-HDMI port allows you to connect the camcorder to your HDTV to watch your footage. When it comes to recording audio, the Q4 provides a lot of options. When highest-quality audio is needed, you can record using 16- or 24-bit uncompressed WAV formats at 96, 48, or 44.1 kHz. When audio quality isn't as important and you want to save space on your SD card, you can choose to record audio using the compressed AAC format with bit rates from 64 to 320 kbps.

Connect the Q4 to your computer via a USB cable to use it as a high-quality video and audio streaming webcam. The recorder can simultaneously transmit video of up to 720p and 48 kHz/16-bit quality PCM audio to the computer. If the streaming application does not have a lip sync function, you can use the volume +/- keys to set the audio delay time so that it matches the timing of the video.

All these models requiere big bucks. A beginner camera should be under 200 usd.

i got a 460 x digital zoom sony camcarder model ccd trv 68 ntsc  i would like to know how to work it

Hi Sargent - 

i have provided a link to the .pdf SONY Model # CCD-TRV68 owner's guide for this camcorder below:

SONY CCD-TRV68 OPERATING INSTRUCTIONS

I am trying to convert a PVBVE file that I received and do not have the proper software. Can someone point me in the right direction with a download to convert the file so my son can upload on Youtube.

Thank you

Hi Raymond - 

You should be able to open a PVBVE file using Windows Movie Maker or VideoBrowser

HELP!  I am seeking a camera that I can use to make recipe blogs just showing my hands and cooking, also for DIY beauty recipes.  I will also be doing fitness and yoga sequences so I will not be able to hold the camera nor have anyone to help, suggestions? 

Hi Sara -

Let us know what kind of budget you will have to work with.

Please contact us via e-mail:  AskBH@BandH.com

Get a tripod! Any of these cameras will have the same standard connection socket.

The biggest obstacle for me is the variable bit rates of the files that most consumer cameras create. Every NLE that I know of wants constant bit rates, otherwise audio falls out of sync with video. The worst files created are from smartphones, which is sad because they are the easiest to travel with... yet the audio can randomly be up to 10 seconds out of sync!

Do you have experience using an NLE to edit footage from any of these recommended products? I am dying to find one that would allow me to skip the whole variable-to-constant batch file conversion thing in post. I waste hours every day converting files from VBR to CBR before I can even edit them :(

Thank you!!!

Hi -

Conversion is a fact of life for editing variable bitrate footage from these and other consumer grade camcorders.  Another argument for moving into a professional camcorder.

Hi! I am looking for a camera which I can use along with a blackmagicdesign ministudio recorder interface to do live streaming to youtube, using wirecast software and a mac pro computer. I have bought several cameras with no success whatsoever.

Could you please recommend me a camera that will definitely work for my purpose? My intention is buying 4 cams of a same reference.

Thanks!

Oh, and for under 300 dollars each, please! Thanks!

Hi Juan -

Whether up close or far away, the black Canon VIXIA HF R600 lets you capture sharp and steady Full HD video by combining a 57x Advanced Zoom range and SuperRange Optical Image Stabilizer. It features a 3.28MP CMOS image sensor and a DIGIC DV 4 Image Processor that delivers up to 1080/60p video. Video is recorded to SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards in either MP4 (up to 35 Mbps) or AVCHD (up to 28 Mbps) formats. A 3" capacitive LCD touch panel is provided for easy framing, quick playback, and intuitive operation. Designed with all levels of users in mind, the HF R600 has a wide range of features to automatically adjust image stabilization, zoom magnification, and image control settings to help you get the best possible images. A high-capacity 1840mAh battery is included for longer shooting times.

Hi Juan -

Whether up close or far away, the black Canon VIXIA HF R600 lets you capture sharp and steady Full HD video by combining a 57x Advanced Zoom range and SuperRange Optical Image Stabilizer. It features a 3.28MP CMOS image sensor and a DIGIC DV 4 Image Processor that delivers up to 1080/60p video. Video is recorded to SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards in either MP4 (up to 35 Mbps) or AVCHD (up to 28 Mbps) formats. A 3" capacitive LCD touch panel is provided for easy framing, quick playback, and intuitive operation. Designed with all levels of users in mind, the HF R600 has a wide range of features to automatically adjust image stabilization, zoom magnification, and image control settings to help you get the best possible images. A high-capacity 1840mAh battery is included for longer shooting times.

Hi,

One thing not cover in this article or others that I have read so far, is whether or not any of these cameras can be controlled directly from the computer as opposed to setting camera angle, view, etc. first and hoping it is set up right, or having someone hold the camera to make those adjustments while video capturing.

I am looking for a solution(s) for online learning.  The built-in camera (laptop) is fair at best, while audio is horrible, putting it politely.

While I need both video and audio capture, of the two, audio is more important.  I say this as most times, I will be making a presentation using the slides on the computer screen as I might if I were using an overhead projector in the classroom.  On some occasions though, I need to be in the video.

One option is to stay with the internal camera (for now) and get just an external mic, maybe with a built-in pre-processing. Another option would be to get an integrated camera/mic, but one in which I can control everything from the camera or from my PC.

(Note: Capturing the slides themselves could be by means of a remote website the school works with or from within Powerpoint itself. Also, I will need to occasionally edit the video but more likely re-dub the audio.) 

I don't have a set budget but you like to keep it under $1000, preferrably a lot less than that.

Hi KM -

The Zoom Q4 Handy Video Recorder combines Full HD 1080p video with Zoom's high-quality audio capture technology. Designed with musicians in mind, the Q4 features a pop-up 120° X/Y condenser microphone that lets you capture live studio performances, concerts, or videos of yourself playing with studio-quality sound. The Q4 also features a detachable flip-out 2.0" LCD screen unit, a lens with a wide 130° viewing angle, and outboard audio controls for quick access to settings such as gain, monitor volume, and low cut filter.

The Q4 captures HD video at 1080p/30, 720p/60, or 720p/30 to SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards up to 128GB in size. It can also record WVGA video at 60 or 30fps. A micro HDMI port allows you to connect the camcorder to your HDTV to watch your footage. When it comes to recording audio, the Q4 provides a lot of options. When highest-quality audio is needed, you can record using 16 or 24-bit uncompressed WAV formats at 96, 48, or 44.1kHz. When audio quality isn't as important and you want to save space on your SD card, you can choose to record audio using the compressed AAC format with bit rates from 64 to 320kbps.

The Q4 provides an external stereo input jack with plug-in power for connecting external microphones and other audio devices, and a headphones/line output jack for listening to your audio. A USB port allows the Q4 to be connected to your computer or to an iPad using an optional iPad camera connection kit. This lets you transfer files and use the camcorder as a webcam for streaming audio and video. The USB port also provides power for charging the lithium-ion battery. An optional AC adapter is also available, sold separately. The Zoom Q4 comes included with the a lithium-ion battery that provides up to 3 hours of record time, a hairy windscreen and attachment screw, and a USB cable.

Hello - looking for recommendations for my high schooler.  She wants to film herself doing sideline interviews and commentary at high school football games.  What would be the best option?  It needs to be something she can set up and operate on her own - I am not going to be the camerman.  :-)

Hi KC -

Panasonic’s HC-V770K Full HD Camcorder is an excellent place to start, for just about anyone. It’s affordable, and it offers high-quality 1080p video at up to 60 frames per second (fps) and even a slow-mo 120 fps mode. A 20x zoom lens gives you many framing and perspective options when composing your shots. This camera is a great starter because it offers solid video quality and ease of use with its automatic exposure modes. When you are ready to introduce a greater degree of exposure and aesthetic control into your content, an easily accessible dedicated manual exposure wheel is located at the front of the camera. A microphone input is also available for when you decide to take the step up into dedicated audio equipment. Accessories such as lavalier and shotgun microphones offer much improved audio quality over the camera’s built-in microphone. When you’re finished recording, videos are stored in the MP4 format to ubiquitous SD cards. This way they will work with PC and Mac in most editing applications. In the interest of quick uploading, untouched MP4 files will work with most video hosting services, such as YouTube and Vimeo, right out of the camera. 

Surprised you din't mention the 60D, 70D, 80D series. Because of the flip round screen, this is THE most popular camera used by all the top bloggers like Casey Neistat and iJustine 

Perhaps it was excluded due to the kit lens being too soft to be practical, recording time limitations, lack of OIS, etc. I'm actually surprised to hear that the "big" Tubers would recommend that model at all. When I got serious about vlogging, I sold my 60D the same day!

And which camera did you replace the 60D with?

I second Donzo's question, what camera did you replace your 60D with and/or what camera are you using now?

I looked at this quickly before recommending to a friend who'se just beginning. 

Very surprised that there is no mention of a microphone for vlogging.  As anyone who started doing videos out of their DSLR of camcorder, without a mike the sound is horrible.  Without mentioning it and suggesting various choises I don't think you're done with the article.

Hi Raphael -

Point taken, Raph.  If you look up any of the cameras above, we make recommendations under the Accessories tab for external muicrophones.  Here's a moderately priced, on-camera mic that is a favorite of mine:

The VP83 LensHopper Shotgun Microphone from Shure is a compact camera-mount condenser that provides detailed, high-definition audio with DSLR cameras and camcorders. An integrated Rycote Lyre shock mounting system provides isolation from vibration and mechanical noise.

The VP83 LensHopper features an easily accessible three-position gain adjustment and low-cut filter, allowing it to adapt for different recording environments. Its lightweight, yet durable, metal construction provides dependability and long-life. The VP83 easily mounts to a standard-size camera shoe or a 1/4" threaded stand. The convenient, attached 3.5mm cable connects to your camera's audio input. Its efficient operation boasts 130 hours of battery life on just one AA alkaline battery. A foam windscreen is included to guard against wind and environmental noise.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

What do you think the new Sony RX10-III will be like for this particular usage ? From the first look at it, looks like it could potentially be the perfect camera for vloggers/bloggers. Great video, outstanding built in glass and can take great stills when needed. I must admit I'm struggling to find a better all in one solution.

Hello Harry,

The Sony RX10 series as a whole is also definitely a contender in this category. And while I'm slightly partial to the RX10 II because of its constant-aperture f/2.8 lens, I have to admit, the technical achievement in the RX10 III's lens is not insignificant. In my personal opinion, having 3 lens rings for immediate tactile control over all lens functions is a big boon working in favor for the RX10 III, and it might have made this list, had I been writing it up right now. That said, if I am not mistaken, the FDR-AX100 camcorder is essentially built around the same (or a similar) sensor block as the RX10 series and has the compact and comfortable handycam form-factor as well as no video recording length limitations. In the end, it comes down to preference. My recommendation would be to get your hands on the RX10 III, learn its limitations, and see if it works for you.

All the best.

One thing to add is that most daily vloggers use point and shoots and not camcorders. Cameras like the g7x and rx100 iiii. More pocketable and honestly better video than the lower end camcorders. 

Hi Matt, thanks for reading and commenting.

You make an excellent point, and now that you do mention it, I have seen the RX100 series used for vlogging and would make a great all-around camera for just about anyone. That said, in my opinion, compact cameras like the RX100 and G7X would perhaps make better second cameras to have in a vlog equipment arsenal, as they do have some limitations when compared to standard camcorders, mainly in the areas of handheld ergonomics, audio, and the available zoom range. At the very least, however, they should be worthy of consideration in this category, and if your vlog requires you to be discreet or travel extremely light, even more so. Thanks for bringing up some good points!

All the best.

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